'Cut to the Chase': Definition, Meaning, Examples

By Sophia Merton, updated on August 30, 2023

Did someone say to you 'cut to the chase' and you’re wondering what it means? In this article, we’ll take a look at the meaning, origin, examples, and more.

In brief:

  • 'Cut to the chase' means to get right to the point rather than beating around the bush or wasting time.

What Does 'Cut to the Chase' Mean?

'Cut to the chase' is an idiom that means to state something directly or get right to the point.

If you've ever had a conversation with someone that seemed to drag on and on, you have likely wished that the speaker would 'cut to the chase.' Rather than just saying what they mean plainly and simply, they surround the main point with unnecessary details.

  • This is a phrase you can use when you feel like it's time to move on to the most important action or when you want to get to the most vital information in a conversation.

Though this is a common idiom, it's worth noting that it can come off as rude to ask someone to 'cut to the chase.' As with most phrases, whether or not it is offensive to use the expression has to do with the context. You can certainly ask someone to 'cut to the chase' or state that it's time to 'cut to the chase' in a way that isn't hurtful, but it's worth being aware of your tone and the particular circumstance.

Where Does 'Cut to the Chase' Come From?

This idiom actually originates from the American film industry during the silent film era. Though it is said that Hal Roach Sr. coined the term, who was active in the film industry throughout much of the 20th century, a similar phrase appears in Chaucher's "The Wife of Bath's Tale" in the following phrase:

"...and shortly forth this tale for to chace"

Diving Deeper

Early American films often reached their climax in the form of chase scenes. This was particularly true of comedies.

Amateur or inexperienced directors and screenwriters would sometimes include far too much unnecessary dialogue as the plot built up. This left audiences feeling bored and created a scenario where too much time passed before the most exciting part of the film occurred-- the chase scene.

Movie studio executives would use the phrase 'cut to the chase' in order to imply that extra, unnecessary dialogue shouldn't be included as it would bore the audience. Instead of prolonging the build-up, the film should move on to the more interesting scenes more quickly.

An Earlier Version of the Phrase

There was an even earlier version of this idiom in the form of 'cut to Hecuba.' This is a reference to the play Hamlet.

Hecuba is a figure in Greek mythology. During the Trojan War, she was the wife of King Priam and Queen of Troy. In William Shakespeare's play Hamlet, the protagonist is marveling at the performance of an actor who was playing Hecuba. Here is the line that he spoke after seeing the convincing grief the actor portrayed in witnessing the death of Priam:

"What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba, / That he should weep for her?"

The implication is that Hamlet is criticizing himself for not grieving authentically when his own father dies.

  • In some matinee performances, they would cut down the long speeches that occurred in the full version of the play before Act II, Scene ii, when Hecuba was referenced.

Examples of 'Cut to the Chase' In Sentences

How would 'cut to the chase' be used in a sentence? Let’s take a look at some examples:

  • "Everyone was milling around making small talk when the presenter showed up. He didn't waste any time mincing words and cut right ot the chase."
  • "After hours of planning, his coworker told him it was time to cut to the chase. He said that if they were ever going to make any progress, it was time to start pinning down the most vital details."
  • "They aren't bad people, but sometimes I can't stand getting caught in conversation with them. Both Sally and John will drone on and on when talking instead of just cutting to the chase."
  • "Don't tell me to cut to the chase. This is a complex issue, and you need to understand the larger context in order to make an informed decision."

Other Ways to Say 'Cut to the Chase'

What are some other words and phrases that have a similar meaning to 'cut to the chase'?

Here are some options:

  • Get to the point
  • Don't beat around the bush
  • Get down to brass tacks
  • Cut the crap

Final Thoughts About 'Cut to the Chase'

'Cut to the chase' is an idiom that means to stop beating around the bush and get right to the point. Rather than couching a statement in a bunch of unnecessary details, a person who 'cuts to the chase' doesn't waste time and gets right to the most important information.

Are you ready to learn more English phrases and expand your vocabulary? Be sure to check out our idioms blog for idioms, expressions, sayings, and more!

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Written By:
Sophia Merton
Sophia Merton is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Sophia received her BA from Vassar College. She is passionate about reading, writing, and the written word. Her goal is to help everyone, whether native English speaker or not, learn how to write and speak with perfect English.

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